Tag Archives: Liberty

Why doesn’t God make his existence more obvious to people?

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson about to do philosophy
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson about to do philosophy

Have you ever heard someone say that if God existed, he would give us more evidence? This is called the “hiddenness of God” argument. It’s also known as the argument from “rational non-belief”.

Basically the argument is something like this:

  1. God is all powerful
  2. God is all loving
  3. God wants all people to know about him
  4. Some people don’t know about him
  5. Therefore, there is no God.

In this argument, the atheist is saying that he’s looked for God real hard and that if God were there, he should have found him by now. After all, God can do anything he wants that’s logically possible, and he wants us to know that he exists. To defeat the argument we need to find a possible explanation of why God would want to remain hidden when our eternal destination depends on our knowledge of his existence.

What reason could God have for remaining hidden?

Dr. Michael Murray, a brilliant professor of philosophy at Franklin & Marshall College, has found a reason for God to remain hidden.

His paper on divine hiddenness is here:
Coercion and the Hiddenness of God“, American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol 30, 1993.

He argues that if God reveals himself too much to people, he takes away our freedom to make morally-significant decisions, including responding to his self-revelation to us. Murray argues that God stays somewhat hidden, so that he gives people space to either 1) respond to God, or 2) avoid God so we can keep our autonomy from him. God places a higher value on people having the free will to respond to him, and if he shows too much of himself he takes away their free choice to respond to him, because once he is too overt about his existence, people will just feel obligated to belief in him in order to avoid being punished.

But believing in God just to avoid punishment is NOT what God wants for us. If it is too obvious to us that God exists and that he really will judge us, then people will respond to him and behave morally out of self-preservation. But God wants us to respond to him out of interest in him, just like we might try to get to know someone we admire. God has to dial down the immediacy of the threat of judgment, and the probability that the threat is actual. That leaves it up to us to respond to God’s veiled revelation of himself to us, in nature and in Scripture.

(Note: I think that we don’t seek God on our own, and that he must take the initiative to reach out to us and draw us to him. But I do think that we are free to resist his revelation, at which point God stops himself short of coercing our will. We are therefore responsible for our own fate).

The atheist’s argument is a logical/deductive argument. It aims to show that there is a contradiction between God’s will for us and his hiding from us. In order to derive a contradiction, God MUST NOT have any possible reason to remain hidden. If he has a reason for remaining hidden that is consistent with his goodness, then the argument will not go through.

When Murray offers a possible reason for God to remain hidden in order to allow people to freely respond to him, then the argument is defeated. God wants people to respond to him freely so that there is a genuine love relationship – not coercion by overt threat of damnation. To rescue the argument, the atheist has to be able to prove that God could provide more evidence of his existence without interfering with the free choice of his creatures to reject him.

Murray has defended the argument in works published by prestigious academic presses such as Cambridge University Press, (ISBN: 0521006104, 2001) and Routledge (ISBN: 0415380383, 2007). The book chapter from the Cambridge book is here. The book chapter from the Routledge book is here.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

Ronald Reagan’s 40th anniversary D-Day speech: the boys of Pointe du Hoc

June 6, 1944 D-Day Normandy Invasion Map
June 6, 1944 D-Day Normandy Invasion Map

It’s June 6th, today, and it’s the anniversary of D-Day: the Allied invasion of northern France – the beginning of the end of World War 2. One of the most pivotal events of that day was the assault on German gun emplacements by members of the Army Rangers at a fortified position called “Pointe du Hoc”.

President Ronald Reagan recognized the soldiers who attacked Pointe du Hoc back in 1984:

You can read the full transcript of that speech here.

Ronald Reagan also made the case for gratitude and vigilance:

Here’s the hymn that starts to play at the end:

The Boys of Pointe du Hoc

Here’s a summary of the Pointe du Hoc mission:

[Lt. Col. James Earl] Rudder took part in the D-Day landings as Commanding Officer of the United States Army’s 2nd Ranger Battalion. His U.S. Army Rangers stormed the beach at Pointe du Hoc and, under constant enemy fire, scaled 100-foot (30 meter) cliffs to reach and destroy German gun batteries. The battalion’s casualty rate for this perilous mission was greater than 50 percent. Rudder himself was wounded twice during the course of the fighting. In spite of this, they dug in and fought off German counter-attacks for two days until relieved. He and his men helped to successfully establish a beachhead for the Allied forces.

You can watch a three-clip documentary on it, too: part 1, part 2, part 3.

Although initially, the Rangers did not find the guns where they had expected them, they did find them further back behind the cliffs and destroyed them there, removing a threat to the forces that would be landing later.

What does D-Day mean to Christians in particular?

A Christian friend asked me what she should be thinking about when I sent her one of the videos above, and so I wrote her this to explain why I sent her the video:

To make you close your eyes and think in a more practical way about what it means for someone to sacrifice their lives to save you, of course. What it means to look up cliffs at machine guns, barbed wire and mortars raining death on you and to take a rope in your hands and to climb up a sheer cliff, under heavy fire, in order to save generations yet unborn and freedom itself.

To think about a concrete example helps us to be able to appreciate what Christ did for us in giving his life for us so that we could be free of sin, as well.

This is the insight that drives my entire interest in war and military history, in fact.

What does this mean: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The more you know about D-Day, the more fearful what Jesus did appears, and the more you can be grateful.

Bullets and shrapnel are scary… and so are nails and lashes. Why on Earth would anyone endure either for me? And what should my response be to it?

I think it is helpful to explain Christianity to those who are not yet Christian, and for Christians to fully appreciate what Christianity is all about.

We were in peril. And now we have been saved. But at a cost.

I think that it’s important for Christians to look to history, art, poetry and music to help them to reflect and comprehend the sacrifice that Christ made for us in dying on the cross to protect us from peril. What must the cross have looked like to Jesus? It must have been something like what the Omaha beach looked like to the Americans landing in Normandy. Jesus saw whips, thorns and nails, and the heroes of Normandy saw 88 mm AT guns, 81 mm mortars and MG42 machine guns. How should you feel about people who face death on your behalf? Think about it.

What policies can we enact to help poor children out of poverty?

Teacher union says no to vouchers
Teacher union says no to vouchers

Well, obviously pro-marriage policies will help – encouraging people to get married before they have children, then sticking together to raise the children. That will help.

Economist Stephen Moore has another idea, which I support.

He writes about it at the Daily Signal.

Excerpt:

The scenes of Baltimore set ablaze have many Americans thinking: What can be done to rescue families trapped in an inner-city culture of violence, despair and joblessness?

There are no easy answers, but down the road from Baltimore in Washington, D.C., an education program is giving children in poor neighborhoods a big lift up.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which George W. Bush signed into law in 2004, has so far funded private school tuition for nearly 5,000 students, 95 percent of whom are African-American. They attend religious schools, music and arts schools, even elite college-prep schools. Last month at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, I met with about 20 parents and children who participate in the program. I also visited several of these families in their homes—which are located in some of the most beaten-down neighborhoods in the city, places that in many ways resemble the trouble spots in Baltimore.

These families have now pulled together to brace for a David vs. Goliath fight to save the program. For the seventh straight year, President Obama has proposed eliminating this relatively tiny scholarship fund, which at $20 million accounts for a microscopic 0.0005 percent of the $4 trillion federal budget.

Why would Obama want to end the program? Because if children can choose schools that don’t fail them, the teachers are the failing schools might lose their jobs. Since Obama needs the votes and the political support of the teacher unions, he cannot put the interests of the children above the interests of the unionized teachers.

More from the article:

An Education Department-funded study at the University of Arkansas recently found that graduation rates rose 21 percentage points—to 91 percent, from 70 percent—for students awarded the scholarship vouchers through a lottery, compared with a control group of those who applied for but didn’t get the scholarships. For all D.C. public schools, the high school graduation rate is closer to an abysmal 56 percent.

“If you’ve got a program that’s clearly working and helping these kids, why end it?” asks Pamela Battle, whose son Carlos received a voucher and was able to attend the elite Georgetown Day School. He’s now at Northeastern University in Boston. She says Carlos “almost surely wouldn’t have gone to college” without the voucher. “We send all this money overseas for foreign aid,” she adds, “why not save the kids here at home first?”

Well, as I said, the Democrats don’t like the law:

Amazingly, these energized parents are opposed by almost every liberal group, even the NAACP, and nearly every Democrat in Congress—including Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia in Congress but opposes a program that benefits her own constituents.

There is little question what stirs this opposition. The teachers union sees the program as taking away union jobs, and it is so powerful that the Democratic establishment falls in line. “It is so sad that our public schools aren’t doing what’s best for the kids,” laments Ford, but instead are looking out for “the adults.”

[…]Obama won’t even meet with these parents. A few years ago the voucher supporters held a rally with 3,000 minority and disadvantaged families in front of the Capitol to protest President Obama’s proposed elimination of the program for all new students. Republicans in Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner, one of the program’s strongest supporters, stood in solidarity with the families, while Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues were nowhere to be seen.

So, the next time someone accuses conservatives of not caring about children, be sure and tell them the story of the D.C. voucher program. We conservatives are very much in favor of helping poor children. It’s the people on the left who are not. Don’t let your conversations with leftists be about vague things like racism and “the rich”. Bring it down to the level of details – “I support voucher programs for poor children to get out of failing schools. Do you? Why don’t your Democrat leaders support them?” Go on the attack with the facts.

By the way, read the whole post by Moore – it’s chock full of parents giving their opinion about the program, and telling stories of how vouchers worked for them. Children first, adults second. That has to be our rule.

As senator, Hillary Clinton paid women 72 cents for every dollar she paid men

Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood
Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood

I already knew that Hillary Clinton was pro-gay-marriage, and radically pro-abortion, but it turns out that she is a hypocrite on women’s issues, as well.

The Washington Times reports:

During her time as senator of New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton paid her female staffers 72 cents for every dollar she paid men, according to a new Washington Free Beacon report.

From 2002 to 2008, the median annual salary for Mrs. Clinton’s female staffers was $15,708.38 less than what was paid to men, the report said. Women earned a slightly higher median salary than men in 2005, coming in at $1.04. But in 2006, they earned 65 cents for each dollar men earned, and in 2008, they earned only 63 cents on the dollar, The Free Beacon reported.

[…]Mrs. Clinton has spoken against wage inequality in the past. In April, she ironically tweeted that “20 years ago, women made 72 cents on the dollar to men. Today it’s still just 77 cents. More work to do. #EqualPay #NoCeilings.”

Meanwhile, she is making “equal pay for women” her top priority.

CBS News reports:

Hillary Clinton lamented the number of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math at a Silicon Valley women’s conference on Tuesday, and called for more action to close the wage gap.

[…]In advocating for closing the pay gap, Clinton also endorsed the impassioned plea for wage equality made by Patricia Arquette in her Oscars acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress.

“Up and down the ladder many women are paid less for the same work, which is why we all cheered at Patricia Arquette’s speech at the Oscars — because she’s right, it’s time to have wage equality once and for all,” Clinton said.

All right, let’s take a look at the facts on the so-called “pay gap” between men and women.

The facts

This article is from the very left-wing Slate, of all places.

Excerpt:

The official Bureau of Labor Department statistics show that the median earnings of full-time female workers is 77 percent of the median earnings of full-time male workers. But that is very different than “77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.” The latter gives the impression that a man and a woman standing next to each other doing the same job for the same number of hours get paid different salaries. That’s not at all the case. “Full time” officially means 35 hours, but men work more hours than women. That’s the first problem: We could be comparing men working 40 hours to women working 35.

How to get a more accurate measure? First, instead of comparing annual wages, start by comparing average weekly wages. This is considered a slightly more accurate measure because it eliminates variables like time off during the year or annual bonuses (and yes, men get higher bonuses, but let’s shelve that for a moment in our quest for a pure wage gap number). By this measure, women earn 81 percent of what men earn, although it varies widely by race. African-American women, for example, earn 94 percent of what African-American men earn in a typical week. Then, when you restrict the comparison to men and women working 40 hours a week, the gap narrows to 87 percent.

But we’re still not close to measuring women “doing the same work as men.” For that, we’d have to adjust for many other factors that go into determining salary. Economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn did that in a recent paper, “The Gender Pay Gap.”.”They first accounted for education and experience. That didn’t shift the gap very much, because women generally have at least as much and usually more education than men, and since the 1980s they have been gaining the experience. The fact that men are more likely to be in unions and have their salaries protected accounts for about 4 percent of the gap. The big differences are in occupation and industry. Women congregate in different professions than men do, and the largely male professions tend to be higher-paying. If you account for those differences, and then compare a woman and a man doing the same job, the pay gap narrows to 91 percent. So, you could accurately say in that Obama ad that, “women get paid 91 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.”

I believe that the remainder of the gap can be accounted for by looking at other voluntary factors that differentiate men and women.

The Heritage Foundation says that a recent study puts the number at 95 cents per dollar.

Excerpt:

Women are more likely than men to work in industries with more flexible schedules. Women are also more likely to spend time outside the labor force to care for children. These choices have benefits, but they also reduce pay—for both men and women. When economists control for such factors, they find the gender gap largely disappears.

A 2009 study commissioned by the Department of Labor found that after controlling for occupation, experience, and other choices, women earn 95 percent as much as men do. In 2005, June O’Neil, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office, found that “There is no gender gap in wages among men and women with similar family roles.” Different choices—not discrimination—account for different employment and wage outcomes.

A popular article by Carrie Lukas in the Wall Street Journal agrees.

Excerpt:

The Department of Labor’s Time Use survey shows that full-time working women spend an average of 8.01 hours per day on the job, compared to 8.75 hours for full-time working men. One would expect that someone who works 9% more would also earn more. This one fact alone accounts for more than a third of the wage gap.

[…]Recent studies have shown that the wage gap shrinks—or even reverses—when relevant factors are taken into account and comparisons are made between men and women in similar circumstances. In a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, the research firm Reach Advisors found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts. Given that women are outpacing men in educational attainment, and that our economy is increasingly geared toward knowledge-based jobs, it makes sense that women’s earnings are going up compared to men’s.

When women make different choices about education and labor that are more like what men choose, they earn just as much or more than men.

Christian magistrate punished for saying children need a mother and a father

Dina tweeted this article from the UK Daily Mail.

Excerpt:

A Christian magistrate has been disciplined by a Tory Cabinet Minister for expressing the belief that children should be raised by both a mother and a father.

Richard Page told colleagues behind closed doors during an adoption case that he thought it would be better for a child to be brought up in a traditional family rather than by a gay couple.

He was shocked a week later when he found he had been reported to the judges’ watchdog for alleged prejudice, and was suspended from sitting on family court cases.

Mr Page, an experienced NHS manager, has now been found guilty of serious misconduct by Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling – who previously spoke in support of a Christian couple who turned away a gay couple from their B&B.

He has also been ordered to go on an equality course before he is allowed back in the courtroom.

The married 68-year-old was told he had broken the oath sworn by all Justices of the Peace (JPs) as well as Labour’s controversial Equality Act, by being guided by his religious views and discriminating against the same-sex adoptive parents.

Last night, critics said the case was another example of how people who hold traditional Christian views feel they have no freedom of speech and find it difficult to hold public office in modern Britain.

Mr Page told The Mail on Sunday: ‘There is tremendous pressure to keep quiet and go along with what is seen to be politically correct.

‘Everyone else seems to be allowed to stand up for their beliefs except for Christians.’ Mr Page was called on to consider an adoption order at a family court last July.

As a lay judge he is not required to be legally qualified and is meant to ‘bring a broad experience of life to the bench’ in making decisions. Because of the controversial secretive nature of such hearings, The Mail on Sunday cannot publish details of the case.

[…]‘I think there is something about a man, a woman and a baby, that it’s natural and therefore the others are not. That is the comment that I made,’ he said.

‘Therefore, since my task as a magistrate is to do the best for the child, my feeling was, quite reasonably, that a man and a woman would be better.’

I found it shocking that a Tory (Conservative Party) Cabinet minister would discipline this man, although I know that the Conservative Party in the UK is pro-same-sex marriage.

What is interesting is Grayling’s change of mind on conscience vs gay rights:

2010 As Shadow Home Secretary:

He backs Christian couple’s right to ban gay couple from their B&B (he subsequently lost his job)

‘I think we need to allow people to have their own consciences. If you look at the case of “Should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from their hotel?”… I took the view that if it’s a question of somebody who’s doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn’t come into their own home

December 2014 as Lord Chancellor:

He disciplines Christian JP who suggested a man and a woman would be better parents for child than gay couple

‘The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice have Issued Mr Richard Page JP, a Magistrate assigned to the Central Kent Bench with a reprimand. Mr Page, whilst sitting in the Family Court, was found to have been influenced by his religious beliefs and not by the evidence.

‘The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice considered that this amounted to serious misconduct and that Mr Page should have recused himself from the matter.’

[…]As Shadow Home Secretary in 2010, Mr Grayling had backed a Christian couple’s right to turn away a gay couple from their B&B – and as a result of the furore initially missed out on a Cabinet post after the Election.

Wow. So this Anglican Christian initially used to support Christians doing what their consciences dictate, then after losing his job over it, he changed his mind, and now thinks the secular state should decide.I guess to me, being someone who is not in charge of other people and not very important, the most important thing to do with my life is to do whatever God approves of. At the end of the day, only his opinion matters.

I think what shocks me the most is the fact that Mr. Page was disciplined for just stating common sense about what children need. I wonder which parent the Conservative Party MP thinks a child can do without? Is it a mother? No, we have evidence showing that the mother is vital to boys and girls. Is it the father? I think everyone is well aware now what fatherlessness does to a child – be it a boy or a girl. So here is a Christian man trying to put himself in the place of this child and asking himself – what does a child need? A child needs a mother and father. Apparently, this is some sort of crime to say in the UK.